It’s Friday midday, and four Georgia State University nursing students set up tables outside a large lecture hall. Armed with contactless forehead thermometers and a stack of screening questionnaires, Morgan McEntire and Audrey Tomlinson stop each nursing student before they enter the classroom, complete the screening survey and scan the forehead for a temperature reading.
As Georgia State students returned to campus, new COVID-19 safety protocols needed to be implemented. With more than 290 undergraduate nursing students enrolled on the Atlanta Campus, faculty spent precious class time screening students even with staggered attendance. Enter community health nursing students, performing the much-needed task of screening fellow nursing students for symptoms before in-person classes or labs.
The nursing students ask their peers a few short questions about potential COVID symptoms and exposure. When the students are cleared to enter, another community health student, Devin Jackson, directs them to a seat labeled for social distancing and notes the names on a master seating chart. The chart aids in contact tracing if needed in the future.
“We are using a screening form so that students can review the screening process before they come to campus and decide if they should come,” said Dr. Traci Sims, the bachelor’s degree program director. “We saw this as an excellent learning opportunity for both the students being screened and those screening.”
“But unfortunately, students and many healthcare workers feel pressure to attend clinicals or work even if sick. So COVID-19 has given us a platform to talk about all concerns of exposure, not just COVID-19.”
Students are only screened when they enter the class or lab for the first time that day. After class begins, students don’t need to be rescreened when leaving for a break or a restroom trip. Faculty expect COVID-19 screening will continue throughout the semester.
The simple and now common task allows nursing students to practice skills they are likely to use in their profession. McEntire and Tomlinson graduate at the end of the semester and may find similar COVID-19 screening tasks at their first jobs.
“Our process is very similar to the processes conducted at other universities and at private medical practice offices,” said Dr. Kenya Kirkendoll, clinical associate professor.
For students who are newer to the nursing program, the screening task offers an important in-person experience as many face-to-face clinical opportunities are now limited.
“This pre-class screening helps nursing students, especially those who had their first clinical experience in the spring,” said Dr. Ola Adebayo, who suggested the project. “The students are enjoying the experience, and more important, it’s very valuable for practicing ambulatory care.”
According to Dr. Kirkendoll, the community health students have few hands-on clinicals. They do some virtual clinicals, such as virtual health education sessions with multiple non-profit organizations across the metro area. For example, one group has created education sessions for Latinx parishioners at a church in Lilburn, Ga.
Dr. Kirkendoll said the screening increases the students’ comfort level.
“Students have told me that they are glad we are doing the screenings,” she said. “It makes them feel more confident/comfortable coming to large class gatherings.”
Photos by Meg Buscema